Turkey has sent massive reinforcements to areas in its south, in preparations for a push into Syria’s northeast. As troops roll to the border, the country’s top officials have made bellicose remarks, vowing to fight “terrorism.”
A large Turkish military unit has been filmed in the town of Karkamis at the Turkey-Syria border. Right across it lies the Syrian town of Jarablus, controlled by the Turkey-backed Syrian anti-government militants since mid-2016, when Turkey left the territory during operation Euphrates Shield.
The video shows a number of mine-resistant, ambush-protected MRAPs, which are also used by the Turkish army and gendarmerie, as well as several covered self-propelled multiple rocket launchers.
The new military operation against Syrian Kurdish-led militias, which Ankara regards as “terrorists,” was announced by Ankara this month – and had repeatedly been threatened before. Earlier this year, the Turkish army and allied militants launched Operation Olive Branch, crushing Kurdish militias in Syria’s Afrin region.
Kurdish-led militias –the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and its backbone the People’s Protection Units (YPG)– control Syria’s northeast. While the militias have been receiving US military support for years, Ankara claims the YPG to be an offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), which has waged an insurgency in Turkey’s southeast since the 1980s.
Last week, the operation was postponed when Donald Trump announced his decision to withdraw US forces from Syria, which have been occupying parts of the country. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned, however, that it was not an “open-ended waiting period.”
The impact of the US troop withdrawal from Syria will be discussed during his upcoming visit to Moscow, Cavusoglu revealed. The date of his visit, however, was not specified.
Another power that also has boots on the ground in Syria –France– has already vowed to stay in the country despite the US withdrawal. The presence of French troops, however, won’t stop Ankara from attacking Kurdish militants, Cavusoglu stated.
“If France is staying in Syria to protect the YPG, that will neither benefit France nor the YPG,” the minister warned.